Murray bests Rafa to set up final date with Rublev

Top drawer: Great Britain’s Andy Murray serves against Spaniard Rafael Nadal in the semifinal of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on Friday. — Supplied photo
Top drawer: Great Britain’s Andy Murray serves against Spaniard Rafael Nadal in the semifinal of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on Friday. — Supplied photo

Abu Dhabi - Both the greats of the sport had a tough year battling injuries but put up a hard-fought and entertaining game for the near-capacity crowd



by

Ashwani Kumar

Published: Fri 17 Dec 2021, 11:48 PM

Andy Murray beat defending champion Rafael Nadal 6-3, 7-5 in a thrilling semifinal of the 13th Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) on Friday night to set up a final date with Andrey Rublev on Saturday.

Both the greats of the sport had a tough year battling injuries but put up a hard-fought and entertaining game for the near-capacity crowd at the International Tennis Centre in Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City.

Nadal, returning to the court after a lengthy lay-off, made a cautious start. Murray took an early lead to 4-2. The Brit started to push and win more rallies. And after more than half an hour, Murray bagged the first set 6-3.

At the start of the second set, Nadal looked the better of the two. But unforced errors allowed Murray back into the game. The Spaniard upped his game, unleashed solid serves and followed it with two-handed backhand winners. The Brit responded well to make it a back-and-forth second set. And after one hour and 50 minutes, Murray clinched the match in straight sets when Nadal sent a backhand long.

“There were some things that I did good, I was happy with that. Still a few things to work on,” Murray told reporters after his win, which was his first match against world No.6 Nadal since the 2016 Madrid Open semifinal victory.

“It was very special for me to be back on the court with him and play in front of a big crowd. It was really nice. He made some more mistakes than usual, which is normal when you are returning. The court is a bit fast here as well, which makes it tricky too. He seems to be moving pretty well, which is an important part of his game. I hope he feels physically well and his tennis will improve with each match.”

On his own game, Murray felt confident while serving and winning a few rallies.

“I did serve better. I was more confident at the back of the court. I felt like I was able to dictate quite well and win a few rallies, which isn’t easy to do against Rafa.”

Murray, the two-time MWTC champion, will now be facing world No. 5 Rublev, who prevailed over No. 14 Denis Shapovalov in a three-setter 7-6, 3-6, 6-4.

“It will be an important (match) as when Rublev is attacking, he is one of the top few players in the world. He doesn’t like to defend.”

Nadal was happy to be able to compete after five months and said it was a positive start to his recovery.

“It was a good comeback. I am playing after a long period of time. Andy is not an easy opponent to start playing. It was a little difficult. It was a positive match. I had my chances to win the second set.”

Nadal said he played better than expected against Murray and underlined that such matches help him in the recovery path. “I had played zero matches in the last five months in Mallorca. It was a positive start. I thought I played him (Murray) better than I thought. I am happy for him. I saw him moving well. Happy to see him win again. I am looking forward to an intense match (on Saturday).”

Meanwhile, Rublev insisted he hadn’t thought about victory in Saturday’s final. “It is great to come and play here, a really good challenge ready for the new season, and to have fans back at our events is great,” he said and continued: “I came here to play some matches, get some practice, play against some great players. It gives you great confidence heading into the new season.”

The Murray-Rublev final is expected to start by 7 pm. And Nadal will be back on court as he plays against Shapovalov for the third-place play offs starting 
at 5 pm.


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